Well, these powers have never been used before, as I said, but if the government conclude, if ministers conclude, that it’s in the overall public interest for the estate to transfer to the community body then Part 3 allows that to happen if certain criteria are met, even if the landlord is not a willing seller. Obviously we have to demonstrate that it is in the overall public interest so we have a business plan which sets out our ideas and plans for the future of the area. The bottom line is that we want to address the continuous population decline of the last hundred years. We want to create more jobs, more local jobs. I don’t want this to be a controversial interview, but the fact is that the local estate, the family that’s owned the estate for the last eighty-five years and more, have not created one local job throughout the whole of that period. Now we think we can do better than that so we have, set out in our business plan, plans for a community renewable energy project for example, and other projects. A community wind farm, possibly some micro hydroelectric schemes. We certainly would plan to make more land available for housing, affordable housing, social housing, as other communities are doing. Just down the road in North Harris you can actually see the houses going up at the moment on land that North Harris Trust has bought. We feel there is a need to be much more pro-active in making housing available so that local people can stay here if they want to and come back to the area if they want to, and that will also be helped by creating more local jobs. In tourism I think there’s great potential for attracting more visitors. In a sense we’ve already made a start on that with Co-chomunn Na Pairc but the potential is much greater to attract people to the area. I think the key resources and attractions the area has to offer I would say firstly are the environment, the landscape and the wildlife. It’s one of the best place to see golden eagles and sea eagles, for example, otters, different types of wildlife, and so there are tremendous opportunities there for walks and to attract ornithologists and people interested in all sorts of outdoor pursuits. But also I think the history and culture of the area, the Gaelic culture, is again another great resource, an opportunity, and, as I’ve mentioned, you can actually see on the ground the remains of some of the deserted and cleared villages. All the feannagan (sometimes called ‘lazy beds’), that were cultivated and which are no longer being cultivated, partly through depopulation in the twentieth century. So all of that is on our doorstep and it’s like a living museum of dramatic history.

  • John Randall
Thursday 3rd June 2010